MMO, for those of you who don’t know, stands for massive multiplayer online game, most of which are MMORPGs or massive multiplayer online role playing games, or world of warcraft-type games. There are a million and one of these out there, and in my experience the reason they all suck is that they are all the same game, just with different graphics. The reason that this one crappy, crappy game that has been cloned a bazillion times (with few variations) sucks is that it’s designed not to be fun, but to take a lot of time to do nothing. All of the ingenuity in MMO games goes into disguising the same time-wasting program as entertainment. You get your level 1 sword, spell, gun, etc, and that’s okay for killing level one critters. Then you kill a ton of level one critters so you can get your level 2 gun and feel a sense of accomplishment – I mean after all your level 2 gun is 20% more powerful than your level 1 gun, you’re moving on up right? Only now you have to go to an area with level 2 monsters that are… you guessed it – 20% tougher.
You are basically in the area you just grinded (performed repetitive actions to increase your stats, make money etc) to get past, just with new graphics. It is in every way identical. And the story line? Non-existent. There’s some crap in the beginning about some war or conflict or important quest, but isn’t felt in the game world at all. And the tasks you receive are all the same, doesn’t matter if you’re an elf in an orc-infested wilderness or a cyborg in a futuristic dystopian landscape, the tasks are all the same – go get this thing and bring it back, go kill x number of baddies and return so you can kill Y number of these other baddies, and then z number of these other baddies, etc. It’s as dull and repetative as working in the post office and people pay for the privilege. Oh, but in that game it’s a mission and in this one it’s a quest! A quest, really? When I think of a quest I think save the fucking planet, not go kill chickens for half an hour until you find 3 randomly dropped eggs and bring them back to some guy you just met.
All video games are fantasy, but it doesn’t work without the game being entertaining enough to allow someone to suspend their disbelief and actually get into the game world. I am absolutely astonished that people pay money for these stupid time-wasting (and not in a good way) cloned pieces of crap. I don’t even like to call them games because the word game implies fun or entertainment of some sort. I hadn’t tried an MMO in a long time, and I just went through a bunch of crap to get lord of the rings online to work because I foolishly thought that since there was a fan base and it’s based on popular books that maybe it would be story-driven or some more effort would go into it. I spent about an hour checking it out and the plot consisted of “Go kill 3 of x, then talk to y, then talk to z, then talk to A, B, C, D and E, then go look at F (at the bottom of a dungeon), then go follow a trail of flowers to see where it leads, talk to many more people and then…
You get the idea. Go here talk to griznorb so he can tell you to talk to vandolf so he can tell you to talk to griznorb again so he can tell you to kill three monsters and report back to him. And what are my rewards? A level 2 bow, a level 2 sword, a level 2 piece of chest armor, level 2 gloves, and so on. And after I got my full suit of level 2 armor I would’ve done meaningless quests to get a level 3 set of armor piece by annoying piece, followed by level 4 armor and weapons and so on and so forth.
I enjoy games where you level up, but when you get a sense that the character is actually changing somehow. I like when a skill tree in a game isn’t just get your level 2 fireball spell to replace your level 1 fireball spell which isn’t cutting it anymore, but is actually an interesting improvement, like the ability to pick locks or hack into a terminal and turn off a camera or something. You want a skill tree, this is a skill tree:
Or how about arx fatalis where you find rune stones throughout the game which allow you to perform different spells which you draw out in front of yourself using the symbols on the runes to cast:
So that each time you find a new rune you look to your spellbook to see what new spells you can cast. And you can even design your own spells, because you figure out x symbol means fire because it’s in all the fire spells and y symbol means missile because it’s in all the missile spells etc, so you can recombine them to make spells the game doesn’t tell you about. Now that’s a fucking skill tree.
Or deus ex where you had trainable skills and a series of permanent augments where you had to choose which of several abilities you wanted to gain and forego the rest. Or classic fallout:
Combine that with the post-apocalyptic wasteland-esque atmosphere and I’m a happy guy.
This kind of awesome gameplay is unsustainable in an MMO format because once you get the awesome goodies, beat the bad guys and save the girl/planet/day you stop playing… and stop subscribing.
So the whole strategy for MMOs is a business strategy – stretch out the… lets just call it a “gaming experience” as long as possible, and make as much cash as possible before they give up and go waste their money elsewhere.
The only good online games are action or strategy oriented where the whole gameplay takes place in a limited scope in a temporary instance of the game, like halo or starcraft or other deathmatch, co-op, team-based etc games. There is no action in virtually any MMORPGs, it’s all “click the enemy to death” type gameplay.
If there was a game like the classic RPG wasteland that was online and had regular updates and minimal graphics, I would play it. Hell, I’d pay for it. Because the graphics in online games are basically all there is, and at the end of the day I’d rather read a great book than watch a movie with special effects, but no plot.